Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Une idée belge

I lived in Belgium for a little while, and it is an odd place. Belgians are known to be a happy people who love comics (who do you think invented the Smurfs and Tintin?) and beer. Some say that's because the weather is so atrocious, anyone who has less than an optimistic nature has already committed suicide and so has self-selected themselves out of the gene pool. I didn't find them particularly out-going, but they were always friendly. After spending about 6 months there, I understood where Magritte and many very odd cartoonists had gotten their inspiration. (Cartoon murals appear randomly throughout Brussels). Belgians play the role in French jokes, that the Polish have traditionally played in ours: the butt. The French see their northern neighbors like red-headed step-cousins: lovable in a "our family from the country" kind of way.

Brussels is a bit on the sombre side, especially during the winter, and the other cities, while often beautiful and romantic (see Bruges), lack the Italian/Spanish/Swedish charm that the EU has at least brought to the capital city. Brussels, however, is a city with a very subtle charm that must be sought with Chimay and gauffre in hand. When friends say that they're traveling in Europe, I say that Brussels is really only worth a day or two at most. I mean, come on, this is the top tourist attraction.


It takes too long to find the good stuff. I had a wonderful time living in Brussels and I wouldn't trade it in for anything in the world.

While there, I did detect a palpable distrust between Flandres, the flemish and "dutch" speaking part of Belgium, and Wallonie, the french speaking portion. So I think it was probably a bad idea to do this. (for those of you too lazy to click, the Belgian news station RTBF ran a fake story about how Flandres had declared independence from Belgium and showed images of cheering crowds waving the Flemish flag). There may be some antagonism between the two, but there's no need to incite a riot.

Everyone should just sit down, have a kwak, and chill out.

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